It’s February at Twisters, and love for gymnastics is certainly in the air at the gyms. We’ve had some jam-packed party weekends lately, with both Twisters locations just brimming with fun, excitement and some of the most creative party themes we’ve seen in a hot minute! Classes are buzzing with life as usual, and believe it or not, we’re already booking up for SPRING and SUMMER CAMP! Don’t miss out on those early bird rates!
In other exciting news, our competitive team is already off to an INCREDIBLE start this season, with the talented Jahzara Ranger earning a spot as a NASTIA LIUKIN CUP SENIOR QUALIFIER! Major congratulations to Jahzara and our American Twisters coaches and athletes. This is a prestigious accomplishment, and we look forward to sharing more about Jahzara and her impressive pathway to success at Twisters very soon. Stay tuned!
Speaking of February and love, this month Twisters wants to share about someone who is very near and dear to all of our hearts. Someone who for so many years has poured so much of herself into this organization, into our leadership, our athletes and into the friendships she has forged here. This special someone is part of the heartbeat of Twisters and certainly a vital member of our Team Twisters village. She is our on-staff Sports Psychologist, Dr. Christine Hiler.
Our team parents know that Christine works as a major support pillar for our competitive gymnasts, as a part of our Team Twisters Village – a group of individuals and organizations we’ve assembled to provide our competitive team with a healthy, robust and well-rounded athletic experience. What many of you may not know is that Christine was a Team Twisters parent herself, and she now works with individuals from all facets of the organization, from team athletes to the coaches, leadership staff to customer service. Christine is there for us all as a listening ear, a shoulder to lean on and a sounding board for advice. She shows up and gives 100% + effort in whatever she participates in from the Soldier Rush to staff leadership summits and beyond. Her genuine, caring, empathetic and kind disposition truly makes her a gem to work with and to be around. Twisters LOVES Christine!
We interviewed Christine about her experience and life at Twisters. See what she had to say below, and don’t forget to give her a big smile and friendly hello when you see her at the gyms!
Twisters: As a mom, what attracted you to Twisters as a place for your daughters to grow up training gymnastics?
Christine: Twisters’ long-held reputation of excellence in training high level gymnasts was the reason I brought my girls to our gym. I was impressed with the superior quality of coaching and the fine attention to detail in developing well-rounded and successful athletes.
T: What inspired you to focus your psychology practice on helping athletes?
C: For as long as I can remember, I have been passionate about psychology and gymnastics. When Gary Anderson became head coach at Twisters, he mentioned that he had developed a comprehensive training program with a sports psychologist and registered dietician at the gym he had previously owned. This inspired me to combine my love for these two areas in a way that enabled me to use my knowledge and experience to help athletes, coaches, and parents get the most success and joy from their journey in the sport.
T: As the team sports psychologist, what goes into helping the gymnasts be at their best mentally as they head into competition?
C: Competition season is an important time for the gymnasts to showcase all that they have mastered over the course of the year. It is vital that they are mentally and physically at their peak. The coaches have the most arduous task of working their magic with the technical aspects of training. The coaches must balance the technical part of coaching with supporting the gymnast emotionally while still motivating and pushing her to reach her full potential. While the physical therapist and dietician supports the girls in keeping their bodies strong and healthy. My responsibility is ensure that the gymnasts feel confident about executing their most difficult skills while under pressure.
The preparation for this challenge begins immediately after their season ends. We work on letting go of disappointments and preparing to have a fresh start. We tap into “why” they come to the gym to train day in and day out when they could chose to do so many other things with their time and talent. Once they dig deep and find their desire for the sport we use that to motivate them to push hard during summer training, so they can work through fears while learning new skills, build strength during tough conditioning, and practice good stretching and nutrition habits to stay healthy and prevent injuries. The summer is when they build their foundation for success during season.
Heading into fall we emphasize the importance of stress and time management with the demands of school demands picking up along with the pre-season preparation getting underway. It is vital that the gymnasts be attentive to using their time well in all aspects of their lives. Staying positive and focused during this training period is key to building the confidence needed for success during season. Confidence comes from knowing they put the time and repetitions in to trust their technique to make a skill in any kind of circumstances. If the gymnasts cut corners during their pre-season training they won’t have the confidence they need to hit their skills with fast warm-ups, unexpected changes, novel equipment, and pressure from an audience and judges scrutinizing their every movement.
By the time season rolls around the gymnasts are ready to set goals and use techniques such a deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, mental choreography, visualization, and mantras to execute their skills to the best of their abilities. After each meet, evaluations are done to celebrate what they did well, identify what they want to improve, and develop a plan to reach the goal they have set for their next competition. Competitions are encouraged to be viewed as opportunities to challenge themselves rather than evaluative and pressured events. When competitions are seen opportunities to test one’s ability to hit routines, they can be approached with a growth mindset. This will allow competitions to become experiences that can be enjoyed and learned from rather than tolerated and tackled. A competition is successful when a gymnast finishes knowing more about herself as a person and athlete, takes pride in something she did, and has a deeper understanding of what actions she needs to take to grow further and enjoy her sport at a higher level.
T: What has been the most rewarding part of working with the staff and athletes at Twisters?
C: It is extremely rewarding to see someone try something they didn’t believe they could ever do. Regardless of whether or not they are initially successful, the liberation experienced when they actually attempt something they didn’t think was in their skill set is exhilarating to witness. Once they take the first risk in attempting their goal, it provides them with the courage to do it repeatedly until they are stronger, more skilled and eventually successful. It is fascinating and humbling to see them not only reach, but greatly surpass, their initial goals.
I have watched gymnasts at the beginning optional level go on to successfully finish competing at the highest levels in college. Some of the staff at Twisters had the goal of having their own family when they were young and single and now they have partners and children of their own. Seeing the joy and pride people experience as they evolve is by far the most rewarding part of my career as a psychologist at Twisters. I am blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of each one’s unique journey in life.
T: How would you describe the Twisters family in 3 words?
C: Loyal, fun and innovative.
T:What advice do you have for parents of young gymnasts?
C: Gymnastics is a fabulous sport for children. Encourage your child to explore her interests and find her joy in the sport. Help her to be aware of what she loves about doing gymnastics and put it into words and images by creating a personal Vision Board she can display in her room. Assist her with setting goals for what she would like to learn throughout the school year. Support her doing the behaviors she needs to achieve her goals, such as stretching at home, doing privates to help with a challenging skill, and identifying ways she could use her time well during practice, school, and at home. Ask open-ended questions on the commute home from the gym, such as “What was your biggest challenge today?” “What are you most proud about from practice?” or “Tell me one thing that you did that you enjoyed?” Refrain from asking questions that could be interpreted as evaluative or pressure-based, such as “Did you make your series on beam today?” or “How many leg lifts could you do during the PA test?” Also refrain from making comparisons and competitions between her and her peers. Always focus on her own personal path of growth and success. Gymnastics can be a tough sport at times and making sure your child has a good life balance is vital to endure the longevity of many years of training in the sport. Make time for family dinners, vacations, participation in school activities, and outings with friends. Your daughter will do best in a sport where she feels safe to make mistakes along the way, invest time in other interests, and have identities and interests outside of the sport as well.
T: What do you like to do for fun outside of the gym?
C: I enjoy running and will participate in my first Ironman in Kona, Hawaii this June. I love to read books of all genres and learn new information about many topics. I just finished reading the riveting novel, “Yellow Wife.” Baking and eating desserts is delicious and relaxing. Home renovations and decorating is fun when I have time and resources. By far my favorite pastime to be is to walk at dusk in a place filled with birds, water and trees while having an engrossing conversation with one of my daughters, family members, or friends. It is in these quiet moments that I am able to reflect on how appreciative I am for all the blessings in my life.
Our heartfelt thanks to Dr. Christine Hiler for thoughtfully taking the time to answer our questions amongst her busy schedule. Christine, we truly are so lucky to have you on Team Twisters!